Dick Whittington

Date 22nd February 2019
Society Shavington Village Festival Committee
Venue Shavington Academy
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Rachel Hadzik- Chesters
Musical Director Dave Semans
Choreographer Angela Snell


Author: Joe Clarke

Recently winning the District 8 NODA award for best pantomime, I had the pleasure to attend Shavington Village Festival Committee’s 2019 production of Dick Whittington.  Set traditionally, this production was brought slightly up-to-date with music, lights and some special effects.  A fully inclusive society, it is clear to see why this is their 41st Pantomime and why they are brilliantly supported by their community.

The director for this production was Rachel Hadzik-Chesters.  Rachel did well to have her vision realised and she brought some great ideas to this production.  Some of the highlights were the underwater scene and the on board the ship scene.  I appreciated some of the creative ideas but at times they were slightly missed due to the actors on-stage or the cues.  For me, some of the scene changes were slightly too long and overall the pantomime lacked pace.  This is partly down to the traditional script which felt more like a drama rather than a panto, but Rachel tried her best to inject humour and creativity.

The choreographer for this production was Angela Snell.  I felt that the choreography was very basic and very limited.  Most of the cast were dancing entirely in unison in every number and the choreography lacked pace, energy and vision.  It might’ve been better to have less people dancing on stage in some of the numbers to give the dancers more space to dance.  For me, there were far too many arm movements and too much repetition.

Jenny Collis-Smith was the musical director.  Whilst the band were small in number, they did well to play through the different styles.  There were slight issues in tempo but I’m not sure if this was down to the band or the cast.  I doubt any of the audience even noticed.

The set and costumes for this production were excellent.  I was particularly impressed with the costumes.  A special mention has to go to the wardrobe team for their brilliant efforts.  Each of the backcloths were individually painted and were very well done to convey the different locations.  I really liked the set for the ship scene.  The attic scene was very well done too.

The lights and sound helped with the overall production.  I liked the uplighters on the side of the proscenium arch along with the different gobos and gels used.  Follow spots were also used very well throughout too.  There was a slight issue with one of the cast mics, but this was soon rectified.  Overall, I was impressed with the technical elements of this show.

Dick Whittington was played by Hannah Brett.  Hannah did very well in this role and was a good protagonist.  Hannah had very good, diction, articulation and projection which helped with the overall storytelling.  Well done Hannah!

Tom the Cat was played by Jacob Craven.  Whilst a smaller role with virtually no dialogue, Jacob did well to convey the sassy side of his character.  His was entertaining to watch.

King Rat was played by Jonathan Brett.  Jonathan did very well in this role and was very believable.  Jonathan also did well to get the right number of boos and audience distain.  I liked lots of the characteristics that Jonathan brought to this role and he was very well cast.

King Rat’s sidekicks, Stench (James Wright) and Rot, (Chris Stubbs) were fun to watch.  I would’ve preferred if they had slightly more conviction in their slapstick/physicality which would’ve allowed them to be even funnier, but this is more of a directorial point of view.  I liked some of the nuances that they brought - they were fun and entertaining.

Gary Blackman portrayed the role of Alderman Fitzwarren.  Gary was a good storyteller with excellent diction, articulation and projection.  He was very well cast in this role.  I look forward to seeing Gary in another ole in the future as he was very watchable.

Alderman’s daughter, Alice FItzwarren was played by Molly Lloyd.  The love interest of Dick, Milly did well to tell her story and was suitably cast.

Fairy Bow Belle was played by Emily Hurry.  Whilst I felt that Emily was a little too laid back with her storytelling for this role, she very much ‘looked’ the part and had some nice character traits.  Emily had a great smile and had all of the suitable physical character traits you would expect of this character.

Sarah the Cook (The Dame) was played by Andrew Stanley.  This was his first outing as the Dame and it showed.  For me, there was a severe lack of audience participation, wit, humour and add-libbing that you would normally see in this role.  I felt that Andrew was too nice, too naturalistic and did not bring any of the elements needed for a panto Dame.

The star of the show for me was Amy Stanley who played Idle Jack.  Amy had brilliant enthusiasm and confidence for a girl of her age and she really held her own, often commanding the audience.  There were some slight issues with diction but overall, I was thoroughly entertained by Amy.  She was very well cast in this role and one to watch for the future!

There are far too many other characters in this production for me to mention by name.  Whilst this pantomime was entertaining and very well supported, I felt that it lacked pace and energy.  It felt quite stilted at times, especially with the choreography and scene changes.  I was impressed with the youth in this society which bodes very well for the future.  Another special mention must go to the set and wardrobe departments who helped make this production what it was.  Societies like this are the backbone of every community and I loved the family feel of support from the audience.  I thank Shavington Village Festival Committee for their hospitality and wish them all the very best for the regional awards in May!